Home  »  College Life   »   My Military Child Is Going to College, What About TRICARE?

My Military Child Is Going to College, What About TRICARE?

college tricare

What You Need to Know About TRICARE When Your Military Child Goes to College

Your military child has turned 18 and is headed off to college. Until now, it has never been a question about what type of TRICARE they would need. You have TRICARE Prime, so they do. But when a military child leaves for college, things can change. Here is what you need to know.

Having a child go to college is considered a TRICARE Qualifying Life Event (QLE). A QLE is a change in life such as moving, the birth of a child, or a child going to college. A QLE starts a 90-day period where you can make eligible enrollment changes. You can read more about QLEs on the TRICARE website.

Now that you know that you can change your student’s TRICARE, here are your options.


  • If you are on TRICARE Prime, or the U.S. Family Health Plan (USFHP), your student can use your home address and continue using Prime.
  • If the college they attend is in a location where you can get TRICARE Prime, they can use the college’s address. If there isn’t, the student can switch to TRICARE Select.
  • The pros of staying on Prime are being able to get care from a PCM and being able to save on out-of-pocket medical costs.
  • If you are on TRICARE Select, TRICARE Reserve Select, or TRICARE Retired Reserve, everything can stay the same.
  • If your child is going overseas, they can enroll in TRICARE Select Overseas, but only if they are attending college overseas alone. If they are Command-Sponsored and living with their active-duty sponsor overseas, they may stay eligible for TRICARE Prime Overseas or TRICARE Prime Remote Overseas.
  • If your child is going to a Service Academy, they may be eligible for TRICARE Medical and Dental care.
  • Wherever your child is going to college, make sure to check to see if the school offers its own health care plans. They might and it can be a good option. These can qualify as Other Health Insurance (OHI) and then you would have TRICARE as the secondary payer.

Children Over 21

  • When your child turns 21, they age out of certain TRICARE options. Coverage can be extended until the age of 23 if your child is attending college. They would be able to then stay on your TRICARE until they turn 23, or graduate from college, whatever happens first. In these cases, the sponsor must be providing at least 50% of the child’s financial support while they are in school. You can visit TRICARE’s Children Becoming Adults page for more information.
  • You have 90 days from the time they turn 21 to make the change.
  • Children who are ages 21-26 can switch to TRICARE Young Adult if they are unmarried, or are adult dependent children.

What Should You Be Doing?

Change your child’s status to “student status” within DEERS. You will also need a letter from your child’s school registrar’s office that states that your child is enrolled at full-time status at an accredited college and is working on an associate’s degree or higher degree. You will also need to show that the sponsor is providing more than half of their financial support.

RELATED: Lesser-Known GI Bill Benefits




About the author

Lori Waddell serves as Co-director of an emergency response COAD in Montana, a freelance writer, and an Air Force Key Spouse. She is passionate about empowering communities and individuals through knowledge and resources. She currently lives in Montana with her husband and two children.